Releases of Microsoft Office over the past 6 years have been considered evolutionary upgrades, delivering new features with each new version making life a bit easier for authors of Office documents. The release of Office 2000 in 1999 introduced tighter integration with the Web, giving users the ability to flawlessly save documents in HTML format and distribute over the Internet or Intranet, adding stronger ways of accessing information.
In Office XP version 2002, Microsoft improved upon the stance of web integration by sampling with XML, users were able to tag documents adding a bit of intelligence to Office files. Other new features in Office XP included the controversial Task Pane, the aim of which was to make access to common features in the suite more accessible. Office 2003 was more about the client/server experiences; products such as Exchange Server were now a part of what became the Office System and included a number of other products such as Share Portal Server and Office Live Meeting Server.
New applications were also a part of the 2003 release, InfoPath for creating forms and OneNote, a note taking application with strong focus on inking and integration with Tablet PCs. To many users, especially those running much older versions such as Office 2000, each upgrade seemed none worthy of both the cash and time. Excuses included, if it’s working well enough why try improving on it? I only use 10 percent of the features, Office is bloated, and I don’t need Microsoft Office when I have OpenOffice, which is free.
This now brings me to Office 12. Office 12 is all about taking it to a whole new level in terms of interaction with the core Office applications and new ways of managing Office documents. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Outlook Composer 12 all feature an innovative “new” user interface. This new user interface promises to deliver on that dream of making access to the tools you use the most in your Office applications not just easier, but with more relevance to the entire user experience and task at hand.
The first time you launch an Office 12 application such as Office Word 12, you are greeted by the ribbon; a bold new look that is both familiar and overwhelming at first. Gone are drop down menus such as Edit, View, now replaced by Tabs called Write, Insert, Page Layout, References, Mailings and Review, actually there is one drop down menu left, its the good old File menu, but even that has had a major overhaul.
If you use Word and Excel every day or have been an Office user for many years, getting accustomed to the new user interface should happen fairly quickly. I have been an Office user for the past 6 years and it took me no time literally to start using the applications just like I did in Word 2003 or 2000. The secret to innovation here is staying true to ones self, the familiar toolbar buttons such as Font list, size, Bold, Italic, Paste are all there, its just that its “all there” each tab basically displays everything that were previously hidden in drop down menus on a large toolbar.
You might say to your self, does this mean the tool bar is jumbo size, stealing precious real estate? The answer is no, its just about the same size as both the Standard and Formatting toolbars displayed in prior versions of Word or Excel. Organization is a key factor here too; toolbar components under each tab are specifically organized into different categories, known as Galleries such as Clipboard, Font, Paragraph and Quick Formatting under the Write Tab.
Office in general includes new user customization features such as a dialogue launcher that is integrated into the different categories (Galleries) that make up the Office 12 UI. So for example, the Paragraph category links to the Paragraph dialogue and the Font Gallery links to the Font dialogue.
This sounds unwieldy and confusing at first, but it’s actually refreshing and adds better meaning to how you interact with the interface and use the tools in Office more effectively. To make you feel a bit more comfortable, let’s start talking more in-depth about each “new” Office application, seriously, they are new.
The installer for Office 12 has had a refreshing maker over that compliments the changes throughout the User Interface. After inserting the Office 12 DVD you are greeted by a pleasant welcome screen which then immediately takes you to the list of products you might want to install depending on the edition. Next is the Product Key page which displays a simpler layout without the awkwardness of prior versions of Office, its pretty much child’s play here.
After typing in the Product Key hurdle, you are greeted by the next hurdle, the License Agreement, accept and move on, nothing to see there. Next is the installation options, you have two choices, which depends whether you have a prior version of Office installed or not. Upgrade or Customize, in this case I was granted both options since I had prior installed, I chose to do a Custom install, which took me to a revamped Customize Install Page. Laid out in a set of Tabs which include Install Options, File Location, User Information, Help Improve Office and Upgrade.
The Install was a breeze, finished in less than 20 minutes on my system.
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